How can wood furniture help ensure forests remain standing? Using wood from responsibly managed forests can actually help keep forests healthy for generations. Forests managed under rigorous environmental and social criteria can generate income while allowing forests to regenerate naturally, so they continue to provide goods and services that benefit people, wildlife, and climate. This market incentive also helps keep forests from being degraded or cleared for agriculture or other uses. As a result, companies that offer wood products in the marketplace are essential to addressing the dual crises of climate change and biodiversity loss through their responsible sourcing decisions.
One of the best ways to ensure forests are well managed is by sourcing or purchasing Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®)-certified wood. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) considers FSC the most credible forest certification. FSC provides companies and consumers assurance their wood has not contributed to illegal logging, deforestation, forest degradation, biodiversity loss, or human or labor rights violations.
In the United States, we’ve witnessed a strong trend toward the responsible and legal sourcing of wood products in the furniture sector. This trend did not materialize out of nowhere. Growing corporate concern about deforestation, forest degradation, and the climate crisis has certainly influenced an uptick in the availability of sustainable wood furniture. Research¹ has also shown strong and steady growth in consumer interest in products made with environmentally sound materials.
The Wood Furniture Scorecard, an initiative led by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and the Sustainable Furnishings Council (SFC), has also played a significant role. Now in its sixth year of publication, the Wood Furniture Scorecard’s purpose is to help protect forests by encouraging furniture retailers to implement policies that drive steady increases in the sourcing of responsible wood—particularly FSC-certified wood, as well as reclaimed and salvaged wood, whose use alleviates pressure on forests.
The scorecard released its latest results last month. In the past half-decade, numerous major furniture retailers have joined longtime industry leaders (and WWF Forests Forward program participants), including IKEA and Williams-Sonoma, Inc., in sourcing and offering products made from responsible wood. These companies include other Forests Forward participants such as CITY Furniture and Costco and numerous additional companies, including Crate & Barrel, La-Z-Boy, Room & Board, Target, Walmart, and Wayfair.
The scorecard initially evaluates furniture retailers based on the information available on their websites. SFC then leads a proactive outreach effort to give companies an opportunity to make changes or provide additional information that affects their scores. The scoring has evolved over the years to spur genuine progress in the sector.
In the scorecard’s first year, a company could achieve a high score primarily by having a responsible wood sourcing policy. In response, nearly a dozen companies without policies adopted them. By the time the first scorecard was published, 21 had policies; today, 48 do. However, to maintain a high score in subsequent years, companies have had to show they are implementing their policies. This could include, for example, setting and reporting against responsible sourcing targets and exceeding thresholds of sales of FSC-certified and/or reclaimed wood. The scorecard’s reach has also widened with time. In the first year, 57 companies were scored; in 2023, the number reached 127.
When the environmental crisis looms larger than ever, it is heartening that many in the furniture industry are making strides toward sustainability. However, the progress made to date still falls short of what is needed to address the impacts of illegal and unsustainable logging and trade.
More companies need to set and follow through on commitments to responsible wood sourcing. The US furniture sector should also make broader commitments to climate and nature (e.g., through the Science Based Targets initiative and Science Based Targets for Nature). WWF’s Forests Forward program is designed to help companies do both.
The latest iteration of the scorecard suggests the furniture sector has laid sufficient groundwork to take its sustainability efforts to the next level. This is imperative for the future well-being of forests and all who depend on them.
¹ Wemarketresearch. “Sustainable Furniture Market Growth and Status Explored in a New Research Report 2030.” Medium, medium.com/@wmrreports/sustainable-furniture-market-growth-and-status-explored-in-a-new-research-report-2030-9b8bab1b3221.